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Final DART mission. It’s going to be a big boom, and then the counting starts. NASA will move the asteroid tonight

Final DART mission.  It's going to be a big boom, and then the counting starts.  NASA will move the asteroid tonight

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Which asteroid can hit Earth? NASA prepares by playing darts

In 1998, a group of daredevils landed on an asteroid in the movie “Armageddon”. The goal is to drill holes, insert nuclear charges into them, and destroy the object before it hits the ground. Of course, the movie didn’t have much to do with reality, but it was one of the many examples of how cinema imagined the mission of saving the world from a cosmic collision.

However, the reality is…definitely less exciting. It would start with a cosmic collision, but then a tedious process of gathering data and calculating the parameters of a new orbit to prove if the mission had any impact at all. However, if we succeed, we will know how to defend Earth from potentially dangerous objects in the future.

NASA spacecraft will collide with an asteroid

Of course, I’m talking about a unique mission by the acronym (not accidental) DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test). Its climax will occur exactly tonight at 1:14 (time polishing) on Tuesday 27 September.

Space ship NASA It will then collide with the small asteroid Demorphos, trying to push it out of its orbit. Of course, the moment of impact and its effect on the object’s orbit will be accurately recorded. This would be the first chance ever to see if something – what we call a planetary defense system – could work in the real world.

It’s worth noting here that the DART mission is of course just a test drone. Targeted by NASA, Demorphos is not a planet threatening creature and will not collide with Earth in the future. It is a very good target for the test mission, because the effects of the collision with a small ship should be clearly visible and measurable soon after the collision.

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NASA ship flies in head-on collision

Dimorphos is a small body with a diameter of about 150-170 meters. It is not a “self-contained” asteroid, but rather orbits its older brother Didymos (approximately 800 meters in diameter). Demorphos is thus a moon of Didymos, although the entire system is sometimes referred to as a double asteroid (the best example being the name of the DART mission translated to “Double Asteroid Displacement Test”).

The collider, which “kicks” Demorphos from orbit, is a DART probe with dimensions of 1.8 x 1.9 x 2.6 meters and a weight of about 550 kg. The ship was launched into space by Falcon 9 in November 2021 and met Didymos a few weeks ago, sending its first image in early September.

NASA will crash its own spacecraft – Mission DART Photo: NASA JPL DART Navigation Team

At night, at a whopping speed of about 6.6 km/s (less than 24,000 km/h), it will collide head-on with Demorphos (that is, it will strike from the opposite direction of the asteroid itself). NASA indicates that the probe is on a predetermined path, which was last corrected at night from Sunday to Monday. The asteroid’s target location just before the collision is known to a precision of 2 km, which is why DART is now directed independently.

Everything is safe Distances The Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids) miniature probe, which was launched (from a special cartridge aboard the DART probe) will be watching on Friday. We can expect to send a bunch of amazing photos of the successful Demorphos in the near future. The moment of the collision will also be photographed by the DRACO camera mounted on the DART probe, in addition to the series telescopes Terrestrial and space vehicles.

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It is clear that the impact will not destroy the asteroid, because the differences in the size of the masses of the objects are very large. It would potentially create a large crater and throw an unknown amount of material into space. Importantly, the probe’s energy would only marginally slow down the rotation of the smaller Demorphos around the larger Didymus.

The change in velocity is estimated at only 0.4 mm/sec, but in space, even small changes have serious consequences. This slight decrease in velocity will narrow the moon’s orbit (it will orbit the center of mass at a shorter distance), which means an actual trajectory shift. airline from this object. The animation below is shown more clearly:

NASA expects the change to be noticeable, but relatively small (it is estimated that the orbital period will be shortened by about 10 minutes), although details of the new orbit will not be known until the data reaches Earth and is processed by the team. from NASA researchers. Due to the known structure, shape, and density of the asteroid, there are still many unknowns.

It should be noted here that the effect will have a marginal effect on Didymus’ orbit around the Sun (which is certainly more massive). Although the system is now close to Earth (which makes it easier to observe the effects of the collision), there is no danger that it will “fall” from its original orbit and strike our planet.

Of course, NASA is preparing to broadcast the event, which begins at midnight and is likely to last about two hours. You can find it on the agency’s official YouTube channel below:

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The DART mission can help us in the future

If the DART mission is successful and the probe affects the orbital shift of the asteroid, we will know that this method is effective in practice. Obviously, DART is an experiment on a small scale. Changing the orbit of a larger object orbiting the Sun would require a larger and more massive spacecraft to transmit more kinetic energy.

However, perhaps the method will come in handy in a few decades, if scientists track an asteroid or comet that threatens our planet. Currently, of the more than 2,000 known potentially hazardous objects (the so-called PHO, or potentially hazardous object), none is on a collision course with Earth.

More astrological curiosities can be found at Gazeta.pl

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